The Lost Sierra VC_RemoteCalifornia_Module8_LostSierra_Stock_RM_146274066_1280x640
Rich Reid/Getty Images

The Lost Sierra

The Lost Sierra
Hike, paddle, and swim in the spectacular Lakes Basin and the Sierra Buttes

You’ve heard all about the Sierra Nevada stars like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Lakes. But do you know about the Sierra Buttes? If not, you’re not alone. This alpine wonderland of 8,500-foot peaks, nicknamed "the Lost Sierra" and dotted with turquoise lakes, is decidedly untrammeled. Much of the area lies within the federally protected Lakes Basin Recreation Area, an under-the-radar gem dotted with 50-plus glacially carved lakes. For sweeping vistas of the lakes and surprisingly rugged peaks, follow 15-mile-long Gold Lake Highway, which meets State Highway 89 about an hour north of Truckee.

Gold Lake, the biggest of the lakes, has a public boat launch and rental boats. Swim, fish, or waterski in the morning, then sail or windsurf when the afternoon breezes pick up. At sunset, relax with cocktails at Sardine Lake Resort. Cabins and lodges line the shores of several lakes; alas, they’re usually booked months in advance by families who have been coming for generations. For a luxe option, check out Nakoma Golf Resort, about a half-hour north, near Clio. Got your tent? Choose from a dozen drive-in campgrounds, including perfect-for-family sites at Sardine Lake, Salmon Creek, and Lakes Basin campgrounds.

Once you resolve your creature comforts, let your rugged side roam free. Kids love to romp along the easy trails to Upper Sardine Lake or Frazier Falls, while more intrepid hikers conquer the Lakes Basin’s obligatory challenge: the 178 stair-steps to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout. It’s a roughly five-mile round-trip hike to the tower’s base, then test your vertigo tolerance as you climb, climb, climb to its deck. If the ascent didn’t make you dizzy, the 360-degree view will. The panorama includes 10,457-foot (often snow-capped) Lassen Peak and the turquoise Sardine Lakes, sparkling 2,000 feet below.

The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_Hero_barn_KG_1280x642_sized
Kodiak Greenwood

Discover Shasta Cascade

The Lost Sierra vca_maps_shastacascade
52
November
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
90°
High
41°
Low
Dec - Feb
60°
High
36°
Low
Mar - May
80°
High
43°
Low
June - Aug
98°
High
61°
Low

California’s northeast corner is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with safe-to-explore volcanoes, hushed forests, and trout-filled rivers. This is the place for blue-ribbon fishing, houseboats anchored in cool lakes, countless campgrounds, and inviting trails for hiking and mountain biking.

"When I first caught sight of it I was weary and 50 miles away and afoot. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”  --Author John Muir, upon seeing Mount Shasta in 1874.

All this, plus friendly towns like Chico and Chester, and inviting rural farms in fertile lands near the Upper Sacramento River. Redding, the region’s largest city, makes a good base, with riverfront trails, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, and elegant Sundial Bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

The Lost Sierra vc_otterbarlodge_supplied_flickr_oct815590375037_1280x640
Courtesy of Otter Bar Lodge

Otter Bar Lodge

Master whitewater kayaking at this immersive camp for paddlers of all levels

This off-the-grid wilderness lodge in California’s northwest corner is not your typical kayaking school. The family-owned ...

The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T1_35a5189_sized
Lassen Volcanic National Park is the only place on Earth where all four types of volcano can be seen.
The Lost Sierra VC_WhiskeytownLake_RachidDahnoun_ShastaCascade_Lake-15_1280x640
Rachid Dahnoun

Whiskeytown Lake

Paddle, fish, or just relax atop Gold Rush history

Summer isn’t complete without a mountain-lake swim, so drive west from Redding and dip your toes in the warm, crystal-clear waters of...

The Lost Sierra VC_NewGoldRush_BelcampoMeatCamp_Supplied_SM6A9635_1280x640
Courtesy of Belcampo

Belcampo Meat Camp

Go glamping and grilling at this chef-worthy barbecue getaway

The hypnotic glow of the coals, the smoky aromas, the gratifying sizzle of dinner cooking over an open flame:...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Find whitewater rafting fun for all—from newbies to nerves-of-steel experts

Think of a river, and chances are you’ve got your own daydream. Maybe you want to float on inner tubes, or maybe your style is to careen through raucous rapids in an eight-person inflatable raft....

The Lost Sierra VC_RiverRafting_Preview_Stock_RM_172652806_686x885
Groveb/Getty Images
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T6_Mt Shasta_Kodiak__35a2159_1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Trip 4- 6 days 10 stops

Volcanoes to the Sea

Booming Waterfalls, Craft Breweries
The Lost Sierra Sacramento_TowerBridge_DeltaKing_1280x642_0

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

The Lost Sierra EurekaCarsonMansion.CourtesyRedwoods.info__1

After so much wildness for so much of your trip, Eureka is an inviting and lively switch. This once rough-and-tumble seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in the handsomely restored, Victorian-era Old...

The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T3_ShastaLake_Kids.jpg_KG-1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Shasta Lake

Rent a houseboat to explore the state’s largest reservoir

There’s plenty of room to move on this 30,000-acre/12,140-hectare reservoir, the largest in California. A typical summer day finds the crystal...

The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T2_BurneyFalls.jpg_KG
Kodiak Greenwood

Burney Falls

Visit a booming cascade nicknamed the “eighth wonder of the world”

One of the most spectacular waterfalls in the state—if not the continent—this 129-foot-tall, fern-draped cascade seems to come out of nowhere....

The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T3_ShastaLake_Kids.jpg_KG
Shasta Dam contains enough concrete to build a 3-foot sidewalk around the world at the equator.
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T4-Sundial Bridge_i-8p9WWv_R-L.jpg_KG
Kodiak Greenwood

Sundial Bridge

Stroll a futuristic bridge across the Sacramento River

A functional work of art, the remarkable bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled...

The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T5_TehamaRanch_KG_1280x642_downsized
Kodiak Greenwood

Tehama Trail Farms & Ranches

Visit farms and farm stands along the Sacramento River

Established by local farmers, the Tehama Trail meanders through rural communities, linking together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and...

Going to the mountains is going home.
John Muir
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T6_Mt Shasta_Kodiak__35a2159_1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Mount Shasta

Experience wildflower meadows, year-round snowfields, and a New-Age-y vibe

Soaring to 14,179 feet/4,322 meters high, this magnificent volcano scrapes the turquoise-blue sky, north of Redding, a totem from almost anywhere...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

The Lost Sierra VCW_SI_T5_John_preview_686x885
John/Flickr
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T7_flyfish_hooks_Manley_sized
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Fly Fishing

Cast a fly in blue-ribbon waters

Between the volcanic summits of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen flow some of California’s most celebrated fly fishing rivers. Blue-ribbon waters lace...

The Lost Sierra FF_VCW_D_SC_T4-Sundial Bridge_i-8p9WWv_R-L.jpg_KG
Redding's Sundial Bridge is the largest sundial in the world.
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T8-SIerra Nev Brew_copper tanks_i-dC9Cxd3-L.jpg_KG
Kodiak Greenwood

Shasta Cascade's Craft Breweries

Hoist a mug to the Californian brewers who redefined the art of ale

Northern California was the wellspring of the craft beer movement, which can be loosely traced from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco to Sierra...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Annual festivals liven up this quiet corner of California

The Shasta Cascade region is a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts and local events celebrate its natural bounty, from crawdads to wild rice. An annual Tribute to the Trees at Dunsmuir...

The Lost Sierra VCW_T10_hero-_LassenVNP_sized_0
Kodiak Greenwood
The Lost Sierra redbluff_rodeo_funfact
The largest three-day rodeo in the U.S. is held on the Tehama County Fairgrounds in Red Bluff
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T11_oroville_chinese_temple.jpg_city-of-oroville_downsized
Oroville Temple

Oroville

Find a Far East gem in this Gold Rush era town

Located on the banks of the Feather River where it flows out of the Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley flatlands, this Gold Rush town...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your kids to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rain forest or learn about the night sky, there’s a bumper...

The Lost Sierra T8_TurtleBay_PeterAlfredHess_preview_686x885
Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr
The Lost Sierra LavaBedsNatlMonument_CyrilFluck_1280x642
Cyril Fluck/Flickr

Lava Beds National Monument

Descend into eerie and historic lava tube caves

A surreal landscape sculpted by molten earth, Lava Beds National Monument contains volcanic tablelands punctuated by cinder cones, pit craters,...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Lava, geysers & naturally heated hot springs

From the snow-capped heights of Mount Shasta in California’s far north to Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert, signs of California’s volcanic past—and present—dot the landscape. Explore these...

The Lost Sierra Lassen_SF_GrantMontgomery_preview_686x885
Grant Montgomery/Flickr
The Lost Sierra VCW_D_SC_T1_35a5189
Lava Beds National Monument was a training ground for astronauts heading to the moon.